India began their Intercontinental Cup title defense in disastrous fashion as they went down 2-4 to Tajikistan in their opening match in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Komrov Tursunov, Sheriddin Boboev, Muhammadjon Rahimov and Samiev Shahrom were on the scoresheet for Tajikistan who fought back from 0-2 down after Sunil Chhetri’s double put India ahead in the first-half. The visitors scored their four goals between minutes 56 and 75 to stun the Blue Tigers.
Igor Stimac handed debuts to Indian Arrows defender Narender Gahlot and Mandar Rao Dessai who started in the left-back spot, replacing Subhashish Bose.
Sunil Chhetri put India ahead early on in the fourth minute with a penalty after Tajikistan defender Siyovush Asrorov brought down Lallinzuala Chhangte on a counter inside the 30-yard-box. The India captain kept his cool and beat goalkeeper Yustam Ratimov with a cheeky dink to open the scoring.
Tajikistan probed the Indian box, keeping possession ticking but lacked the cutting edge in the final third as the game progressed. There was a close penalty call before the end of the break when Tursunov was tackled by Adil Khan from a subsequent corner but the referee paid no heed to it.
Chhetri doubled India’s advantage just before half-time after a defensive lapse from Tajikistan cost them another goal. It was Chhangte who fired a cross from the left for Chhetri, and the striker once again kept his composure to beat Davlatmir Tabrezi and find the net.
But Tajikistan fought back and returned with renewed vigour as they started the second half on a bright note.
Just before the hour mark, Pansabhe Ehsoni released Komrov Tursonov inside the box who beat Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on the second attempt to open the scoring for Tajikistan.
Sheriddin Boboev drew level two minutes later, pouncing on a cross from Tursunov on the right.
Mandar was replaced by Jerry Lalrinzuala to bring about defensive solidity but the Indian defence capitulated as Tajikistan grew into the game.
Muhammadjon Rahimov joined the party beating Adil Khan on the left before firing past Gurpreet to hand Tajikistan the lead for the first time in the game. The Indian No 1 did not cover himself in glory.
Samiev Shahrom piled more misery three minutes later on after he ghosted past Adil Khan, finding a cross from Ehsoni inside the 30-yard-box and poked it past Gurpreet to put the game to bed.
Substitutes Rowllin Borges and Joby Justin were brought on late into the game, but they failed to make any impact as Tajikistan held on their lead. In between the Tajikistan goals, Chhetri missed a golden chance to score a hat-trick and bring India back into the game.
The Blue Tigers will hope to keep their campaign alive when they face DPR Korea next on July 16 in their second game of the tournament.